Transplantation of cultured salivary gland cells into an atrophic salivary gland

Cell Transplant. 2004;13(6):691-9. doi: 10.3727/000000004783983567.


Patients with dry mouth have been treated with salivary substitutes and/or medications such as pilocarpine or cevimeline hydrochloride. These treatments temporarily relieve their symptoms and induce salivation from residual tissue. However, no treatment is available for the purpose of regenerating an atrophic gland. In this study, the feasibility of a cell transplantation therapy for the atrophic submandibular glands was investigated in rats. Further, the potential of cell differentiation into a useful phenotype was assessed by immunohistochemistry together with cell tracking with the fluorescent dye PKH 26. Rat submandibular glands were excised, and the salivary gland epithelial cells were cultured for 3 weeks with 3T3 cells as a feeder layer. Ductal ligation of the submandibular gland was employed to generate an atrophic gland. One week after the operation, the ligation was removed, and the cultured cells labeled with PKH 26 were injected into the atrophic submandibular glands. As a control, the cultured cells were also injected into normal submandibular glands. Two weeks after cell transplantation, the transplanted cells were detectable in both the experimental and control groups. The cells were clustered in the connective tissue between the lobules. Four weeks after transplantation, the labeled cells were detectable in the experimental group but not in the control group. In the atrophic glands, the scattered transplanted cells were observed over a broad area of the gland but localized mainly around the acini and ductal region. Immunostaining results showed a possible involvement of the transplanted cells in ductal regeneration, while neither myoepithelial nor acinar differentiations were observed within the 4 weeks since transplantation. This study demonstrated that cell transplantation to the salivary gland is feasible, and that the transplanted cells were selectively attracted to and remained in the damaged area without affecting normal tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Actins / analysis
  • Animals
  • Atrophy / therapy
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Epithelial Cells / chemistry
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / transplantation*
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Lectins / analysis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mucins / analysis
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Salivary Ducts / chemistry
  • Salivary Ducts / cytology
  • Salivary Glands / pathology*
  • Submandibular Gland / chemistry
  • Submandibular Gland / cytology*


  • Actins
  • Lectins
  • Mucins
  • Organic Chemicals
  • PKH 26